No ogres on board as ‘Shrek’ production gets green light

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Appointment of staff for a Rome Free Academy student musical, upcoming water-main repairs that might affect operations at Strough Middle School, and plans to replace a retiring elementary principal were among Board of Education topics Thursday night.

• Extracurricular club staff appointments approved by the board, involving nine persons for 12 positions overall, reflected “the people that are associated with...the musical that they hope to present” in May, said board President Paul Hagerty.

“Shrek the Musical” will be the presentation, school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake said. When asked Friday whether it would be a remote production for the public or whether some in-person attendance was anticipated, he said the district is hoping that by the end of May “they will be (able) to have some live audiences” and noted “the audience piece remains to be seen.” He previously had expressed hope at a board meeting earlier this month that perhaps by May there might be changes in mass-gathering restrictions relating to COVID-19.

Among positions and salaries in the appointments, all with effective dates of Feb. 26:

• Jacob Meiss — Director, $2,500; Choreographer, $1,800; Orchestra Conductor, $700;

• Leanna Guerrieri — Vocal Director, $1,800; Accompanist, $700;

• Kerri Winkler and Lori DiBari — Musical Club Co-Advisors, $900 each;

• Kristen Meiss — Producer, $700;

• James Swistak and Melissa Swistak — Co-Set Builders, $500 each;

• Gail Tucker — Costumes, $700;

• Allison Young — Stage Manager and Props, $500.

Blake said at Thursday night’s meeting that the staff for the musical was in the process of developing auditions.

“I would anticipate by the middle of March, those students will be full-blown starting their rehearsals and getting things going....,” Blake commented.

• At Strough, it has been discovered that a water main providing “the main water supply for the building” is “near failure...very rusted and corroded,” district Director of Facilities Alex Rodriguez told the board.

“It’s going to be quite extensive work to get that changed out....We may have to excavate the front parking lot to replace the line all the way from the shut-off at the city side,” observed Rodriguez, adding that if it is not done now “we’re just going to have a problem later.”

The project will require some coordination with school administration and “the instructional side,” said Rodriguez, noting “the building will need to be shut down while this work is done because there will be absolutely no water supply to the building.” He does not yet have cost estimates.

Board member Paul Fitzpatrick asked whether the work could be done “in April during the break” or if it would wait until summer; district schools are scheduled to be closed for spring recess break from April 2-9. “I would hope April,” said Rodriguez, adding “I’m pushing it as fast as I possibly can....At the very latest I’d say summer.”

Rodriguez, who began working in the district in mid-2018, said he had been told that addressing the water main issue might have initially been planned as part of an overall Strough renovation project prior to his arrival but was removed due to cost; the school was vacated during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years for a $25 million renovation.

Board member Karen Fontana said “it just boggles my mind” that the matter was not addressed during the renovation. She asked Rodriguez to check “if that was in a plan somewhere along the line” including anticipated costs, and Rodriguez said he would “see if I can find that data for you.”

• The school district has a posting to seek applicants for an elementary school principal position, said Director of People Operations Geoffrey Morton. The district is seeking to replace Gansevoort Elementary Principal Kathy Bragan, who is retiring at the end of this school year which concludes June 30.

The deadline for applications is March 17 and the filled position would begin July 1, according to specifications listed by the district.

Bragan has been Gansevoort principal since transferring from her district Director of Special Education position with an effective date in August 2019. She also had been Gansevoort principal from 2009-2015, and prior to that was the district’s assistant director of support services.

The district’s end-date for the new principal search originally was next week, said Morton, but “we wanted to ensure that we had the right candidate” and extended the end-date by a couple of weeks. He cited “a lot of competition right now for elementary principals....All regions of the state have multiple vacancies....”

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